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Software product development is a challenging domain that requires deep technical expertise and long-term commitment to succeed. Despite the common misconception, the actual development (coding) stage is just a tiny fraction of efforts required. Let’s have a closer look at the first steps in product development that cannot be compromised upon.
Why Software Development Strategy Matters
To manage product development, one needs to consider 5 major stages in product life cycle:
- Concept phase
- Market entry
It is the strategy stage that ties all the steps into a coherent process, allowing the team to progress towards a common goal with confidence. Lack of strategy makes it hardly possible to perform a smooth and effective development process.
7 Steps to Take Before You Start Software Product Development
1. Idea Validation and Product Definition
The first step to an effective product is to understand if the idea is viable and give a clear definition of the product itself. What is my product about? Does it solve any real-world problem? Who is likely to need/use my product? How will my product stand out from competition?
Objective non-biased evaluation is crucial at this step. Remember, you are trying to draw a correct map of the real world to see if you solution fits in there. Base your conclusions on real data and market research, rather than intuition or friends’ advice. Inaccurate calculations at Step 1 make la the rest of the steps useless, as the resulting product is likely to become a solution in search of a problem, doomed for failure in the competitive market.
A viable product development strategy should never neglect this important step.
2. Product Prototyping: Features & Quality Guidelines
Once market needs are articulated, it’s time to define product features and functions. A good idea is to engage representatives of potential target industries to collaborate on this step.
For an enterprise product, deep understanding of target industry and customer workflows is required. A consumer product should put stress on excellent UX based on users’ needs.
In addition, make sure to meet industry standards and government regulations like PCI, HIPPA, ITAR, SOX, FCC, to be allowed to the market.
3. Minimal Viable Product or Feature
Since users’ needs and market demands constantly change, the product needs to be flexible enough and evolve to meet time challenges.
Thus, it becomes understandable why not every feature should be developed in a single release.
Together with your development team, determine which features should first be developed based on your deadlines and budget. This will make the base for Version 1 of your product.
Draft a software product development lifecycle roadmap - a plan that shows timeframes for all the other features and functions to be developed and released. Within the plan, define release cadence to have an understanding of when a certain feature will be released. Those are extremely helpful for the next steps.
4. Technologies and Architecture
There are a lot of technology tools and solutions out there to help you bring your idea to life. Choosing the correct product technologies can truly make or break a product in the market.
Software Technology deals with a choice of databases, frameworks, libraries, plugins, programming languages (Ruby/PHP/Java/Python), design tools, open source code or licensed utilities, etc.
Product Architecture is the base of the product. Once the product architecture is approved and finalized, it becomes extremely costly to change. That’s why is has to be chosen very carefully from the start.
When it comes to choosing product technology and architecture, think tomorrow and opt for newer or more scalable/flexible options, to be able to make necessary changes or upgrades to suit market needs later on.
5. Product Deployment Options
Consider various deployment options that best suit your product development strategy.
The most rational option for consumer grade software product is off-the-shelf solution, since customers should be able to install and start using it with no extra help.
For mobile applications, customers expect hassle-free deployment by default. For such cases, relevant product distribution platforms have to be chosen.
For enterprise products, a lot of additional customization has to be done for every single customer.
6. Product Marketing Plan
Choosing the right marketing plan is an inalienable part of an effective software development strategy.
Certain software products can be distributed via partnerships or by aligning with other products. Others are heavily advertised and sold via different distribution channels. The strategy has to be chosen based on the specifics and target audience of your product.
7. Financial and Resources Plan
Calculate expenses taking into account resources - engineers and tools, timing and revenue options to come up with a complete product business plan.
Having completed all the steps above, you can have a clear understanding of whether your software product idea is in demand, technically doable and financially viable. Partner with a skillful software product development company to make this journey smooth and effective.